Author Archives: Greg Satell

The Debate Between the US Government and the Tech Industry About Encryption, Explained

The Debate Between the US Government and the Tech Industry About Encryption, Explained

In an unusually contentious political season, there seems to be one thing that unites leaders from both parties: the need to thwart terrorists using encrypted messages. Everybody from President Obama and Hillary Clinton to Donald Trump and Jeb Bush are calling on the private sector to facilitate backdoors for security officials. The tech industry, for its part, has balked. A letter to ...

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It Takes More than a Big Idea to Change the World

In 1882, just three years after he had almost literally shocked the world with his revolutionary lighting system, Thomas Edison opened his Pearl Street Station, the first commercial electrical distribution plant in the United States. By 1884 it was already servicing over 500 homes. Up till that point, electric light was mostly a curiosity. While a few of the mighty elite could ...

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Why Social Skills Are Trumping Cognitive Skills

Why Social Skills Are Trumping Cognitive Skills

From roughly the time of Jesus to Napoleon, life changed little. Then the industrial revolution replaced muscle power with steam power and human existence was transformed. Incomes, life expectancy and population, which had long been locked in Malthusian conflict, began to reinforce each other and rise in tandem. It’s hard to overestimate how profound that change was. Prosperity, rather than being tied ...

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Why Organizations Fail

A few weeks ago, my little girl came down with a case of strep throat. From there, things followed a predictable pattern.  My wife soon came down with it as well and then I did too. We took turns lying in bed unproductively, woozy from a high fever and struggling to swallow. It was a silly episode when you think ...

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The Next Frontier: Why innovation needs exploration

  In Sapiens, Israeli historian Yuval Noah Harari argues that it was the exploratory mindset that led to European dominance over the world. Other empires, such as the Chinese and the Ottomans, had far greater military and economic power in the 18th century. Yet, it was the Europeans quest for understanding that made the difference. To explore, you first need ...

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Innovation Is The Only True Way To Create Value

In The Outsiders, William Thorndike argues that the most essential skill for a manager is capital allocation. To prove his point, he profiles CEOs such as Henry Singleton of Teledyne and John Malone of TCI who, while not household names, achieved outsized returns by wisely deploying their firm’s resources. Thorndike also points out that most CEOs get their jobs not through exhibiting financial ...

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How I Learned To Hack

How I Learned to Hack

The origins of the term “hack” are unusually rich and expansive.  Originally, it was a wholly pejorative term, meaning to work haphazardly.  When people called you a “talentless hack,” it meant that you were wholly unoriginal, cobbling together mediocre performance from the scraps of others’ work. Yet these same attributes, when applied to technology, came to represent the height of ...

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Innovation Starts…OR Ends with Mindset

In her bestselling book Mindset, psychologist Carol Dweck argues that people who see their skills as a fixed set of strengths and weaknesses tend not to achieve much. On the other hand, those that see their skills as dynamic and changeable are able to continually grow their abilities and soar to great heights. Businesses are the same way. Most see their business ...

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How Innovative Companies Get their Best Ideas from Academic Research

Since World War II, the United States has been an innovation superpower. In virtually every advanced field, whether it be information technology, biotechnology, agriculture or renewable energy, America holds a leading position. Other nations may challenge in one field or another, but no one can match its depth and breadth. To account for its success, many point to America’s entrepreneurial ...

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